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Robot Startups See Huge Market in Replacing Human Workers

Unlike China, which is trying to set up a preliminary innovation system for humanoid robots by 2025, the co-founder and chief robot officer at Agility Robotics has no intention to make one. Instead, he said they are going to make robots that could work in human spaces, saying that their intention is not to make robots look like humans.

Agility’s warehouse robot is described as human-centric, which means that humans will be involved throughout the work process. A human-centric approach is explained further in a discussion made by MIT Technology Review Insights, “A human-centric approach to adopting AI”. According to Julie Shah, a professor in the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the robot will be collaborating with humans rather than replacing them. With that, the robots could help in working alongside in factories to build planes and cars.

Hurst said, “We’re trying to make robots that can operate in human spaces,” making the point that their warehouse robot Digit is not a humanoid. The robot could currently perform tasks such as picking up the bins and moving them. Other features that describe the Digit robot are having a head containing cameras, other sensors, animated eyes, and a torso that essentially works as its engine.

Agility Robotic’s Digit robot has arms and legs that are bird-like rather than looking human (AP Photo/Matt Freed)

The figure of humanoid shown by Figure AI at its test facility in Sunnyvale, California, on 3 October 2023 (AP Photo/Matt Freed)

However, Figure AI CEO Brett Adcock thinks humanoids could do work that humans refuse to do. “There aren’t enough people doing these jobs, so the market’s massive,” he said. Due to that, he sees that he could sell millions of humanoids, probably billions. However, the company has not yet released a prototype for the market.

Rival robot-makers, like Figure AI, also believe only true humanoids could effectively function better in workplaces, homes and society for humans.

All attention goes to the humanoids, including Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who is also making an attempt to build a humanoid. However, at a hyped-up live demonstration last year, the Optimus robot walked awkwardly in front of the crowd. Due to that, progress has stopped since it failed to impress experts in the robotic field.

The case is different for Agility’s Digit robot, which has the ability to walk, which has caught Amazon’s attention. “The mobility aspect is more interesting than the actual form,” said Tye Brady, Amazon’s chief technologist for robotics, after the company showed it off at a media event in Seattle.

Agility Robotics co-founder and CEO Damion Shelton said the robot is “just the first use case” of a new generation of robots. He said this to clear up the fears around robots taking humans’ jobs.—Fortune

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